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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.






04 August 2006

Fake Pastor


Q: There is a gal here where I live (in a complex for the elderly or disabled) who just started holding services called Non-Denomination Church or the 3 Phases Church. According to her sister, she never before set foot in a church. She is not a lay reader or a pastor. Is she committing a crime by calling it a “church” or herself a minster?

A: Unless she’s taking offerings under false pretenses (such as saying that she’s collecting for the poor and using the money for herself), she’s probably not guilty of any crimes. However, that doesn’t mean that she isn’t sinning. Our nation and its various states and municipalities grant legal status to many things that Christ’s Church considers to be sins. Nevada has legalized prostitution. Some places authorize gay and lesbian “marriage.” Abortion is legal throughout the United States.

Just because she’s not violating the law of the land doesn’t make her actions right in God’s eyes. For one thing, there’s the matter of a woman usurping an office to which the Holy Spirit only calls men. It also seems that she’s appointed herself to the position rather than being sent by or called through the Church. I would imagine that such an unprepared, uninstructed person, even if she truly were a committed believer, would be wholly unable to meet Scripture’s qualifications for a pastor (cf. Titus 1:5-9, 1 Timothy 3:1-7, et al.). And even if all of these were taken care of, there’s still that not-so-little matter of her not being a man.

My advice is to steer clear of her “church” and entrust your spiritual care to a recognized minister of the Gospel who understands God’s Word, preaches it in its purity and power, and administers the sacraments according to Christ’s institution.

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Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.

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